Objectives: Platelet activation and aggregation play an important role in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease. We examined the association of a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in the GPIIIa platelet glycoprotein (Leu33Pro) with carotid artery plaque morphology and with expression of platelet markers using data from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Carotid MRI study.
Methods: The study sample consisted of 1202 Caucasian members of the ARIC study cohort recruited in 2004-2005 to participate in the Carotid MRI Substudy under stratified sampling based on maximum carotid artery wall thickness. The Leu33Pro polymorphism was identified as SNP rs5918 in the ITGB3 gene. Plaque visualization was accomplished with contrast enhanced MRI examination of the thickest segment of the carotid artery. Expression of platelet markers was measured using fasting whole blood flow cytometry.
Results: This cross-sectional analysis based on age and gender adjusted weighted linear regression models suggests that those homozygous for the Leu33Pro risk allele (C) have decreased mean and minimum fibrous cap thickness. We did not observe differences in plaque lipid volume or maximum carotid artery wall thickness across SNP rs5918 genotypes. Carriers of the Leu33Pro polymorphism, as compared to major allele homozygotes, had greater percent of platelets expressing P-selectin, a platelet glycoprotein indicating activation status. Prevalent coronary heart disease did not affect estimates of fibrous cap thickness or of platelet activation.
Conclusion: Our results suggest that individuals with Leu33Pro polymorphism of the GPIIIa glycoprotein may be predisposed to increased risk of atherosclerotic plaque rupture.
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